Elizabeth Guevara de Gonzalez, who was recently named director of the archdiocesan Office of Adult Faith Formation, is seeking to continue expanding awareness of her office and its programs among pastors and parishioners.
“It’s really helpful—we want to receive calls and to serve better,” said Ms. de Gonzalez, who was named director in November after serving as interim director for seven months.
During an interview last week, Ms. de Gonzalez spoke about new projects as well as ways her office is planning to work with other archdiocesan agencies to expand their existing initiatives. One such project she described would involve joining together with Sister Virginia Joy, S.V., director of the archdiocesan Respect Life Office, to develop a follow-up program for its successful Feminine Genius brunches, which attract several hundred Catholic women.
Ms. de Gonzalez said she believes the Adult Faith Formation office can help parishioners to answer the question, where is God calling you? She says she is not offering a one-size-fits-all approach, rather a menu of options for those who have already been inspired by the truth of the Catholic faith.
She counts as a big advantage the more than three years she served as director of operations for the Adult Faith Formation office when Dr. Daniel Frascella was director. One of her accomplishments was scheduling and organizing 70 three-night Revive missions involving nearly 300 parishes. I can personally attest she faithfully met deadlines and kept Catholic New York up to date with timely publicity materials for multiple missions at the same time.
The missions offered her a quick opportunity to meet and hear feedback from pastors and parishioners across the archdiocese. Survey cards showed parishioners wanted more opportunities to study Scripture in their home parishes and sought to grow deeper in their Catholic faith.
A good way to encourage both is through a partnership the archdiocese has with the Augustine Institute on FORMED, a digital content service featuring audio, video, ebooks and feature films from authoritative Catholic sources. In just its fourth year, the number of individual users in archdiocesan parishes has nearly tripled.
Ms. de Gonzalez said she would like to see more parish ministry groups use FORMED as a tool than currently do so. “We believe in the content,” she said.
Ms. de Gonzalez, 33, acquired some parish work experience in the Diocese of Brooklyn where she served as a director of religious education after she earned a master of arts degree in theology from St. John’s University in 2015. She said her most valuable lesson was observing the dedication and passion the 12 catechists brought to their work.
“Each one had their own gift…in how they wanted to impart the faith to the children. It was wonderful,” Ms. de Gonzalez said.
Other staff members of the Adult Faith Formation office are Oscar Cruz, director of the catechumenate (RCIA), and Jair Jacome, assistant director for program operations, as well as two assistants.
Ms. de Gonzalez said she is motivated by a desire “to bring people to an encounter with Jesus,” and said those serving the Church “have to continue creating points of encounter” to feed the faith of Catholics. One powerful means for that type of spiritual connection is through spending time with the Blessed Sacrament, she said. “I took it to prayer.”
Her idea was a First Friday Holy Hour with a unified purpose of praying for the renewal of the archdiocese and an increase in prayer life and faith. When she made a proposal to Cardinal Dolan, she said he thought it was a promising idea. Because many parishes already offer Holy Hours, it would only mean adding dedicated prayers to their efforts.
More information about the Holy Hour will be featured in an upcoming issue of Catholic New York.
In her new position, Ms. de Gonzalez said she is seeking opportunities for collaboration and “to connect people with resources and with other parish leaders who are doing something they’re looking to do.”